Mason & Hamlin pianos are amongst the world’s most respected and longest established. They are advanced in their design, robust in their construction, and delightfully versatile and commanding in their performance.
Mason & Hamlin pianos are consistently counted amongst the world’s Top 10 instruments, with frequent comparisons to Steinway, Fazioli, Steingraeber, and Bechstein. And refreshingly, they are still made by hand in the United States in very limited quantities by some of the industry’s most respected craftsman. If you are considering the purchase of a fine piano, Mason has been a must-see for more than 100 years.
Mason & Hamlin pianos win over it’s most vocal admirers to a large extent because of its sound. It is perhaps best described as a near-perfect balance of American and European qualities, since much of the design is striving towards the clarity and precision often found with German pianos. At the same time, it’s construction and composition is unapologetically American – they are, inch-for-inch, the heaviest pianos on earth. Mason & Hamlin pianos have several distinct elements to its sonic palette:
it is significantly more clear than any other American piano (as consistently noted by several publications)
it’s treble is very bell-like, with an uncharacteristic sustain for American-design
it’s bass presence is disproportionate to its size – it’s 7′ sounds like a 9′, it’s 6′ like a 7′, it’s 5’8 like a 6’… etc
it has an extremely high level of dynamism in it’s lower volume ranges
it generates one of the most complex mid-ranges ever achieved, without sacrificing clarity
Mason & Hamlin is a small bespoke manufacturer of grand and upright pianos, based in Boston Massachusetts. They have, along with makers Steinway, Kawai, Bechstein, and Stuart & Sons, been one of the 5 major innovators in design and manufacturing techniques over the last 100 years. They have always been considered a top builder, and since their acquisition by the Burgett brothers, have again become amongst the world’s favorite pianos (pianoworld.com)
With Mason & Hamlin’s patented Tension Resonator and and Crown Retention System, the Model A is perfect for professional studios, conservatories and other institutions, yet just as suitable for the home.
At 5’4″, the Mason & Hamlin Model B qualifies as a “Baby Grand”. One listen to its brilliant treble and deep, rich bass notes will tell you that the B has all the legendary Mason & Hamlin characteristics in a size that just happens to fit anywhere.
At 6’4″, the Mason & Hamlin Model AA is impressive in every way a piano can be judged: tonal clarity, pitch consistency, touch responsiveness, aesthetics and craftsmanship. It is capable of large sonorities and the softest, most delicate whisperings.
The Mason & Hamlin Model BB redefines what a 7-ft piano should be, with power and sustain usually reserved for concert grands pianos. Some historians would argue that the Mason and Hamlin BB was the first real limited production “exotic” piano due to its very high price point in it’s day, and cult like following.
At 9’4″, the Mason & Hamlin CC-94 is the ultimate performance instrument. The concert stage has a formidable new star in the CC-94, the first concert grand designed, built and introduced by an American piano manufacturer in half a century.
The Model 50 is known for its powerful sound and full, rich tone. With innovations like the Tension Resonator, which preserves the crown of the soundboard, and sturdy 6-post back construction, the Model 50 will withstand years of strenuous use.
Mason & Hamlin is one of the most innovative piano companies on earth, pioneering several significant improvements and design changes in the piano industry. Head designer Bruce Clarke has been hailed as a genius by many in the industry, for his novel and industry-leading approaches to everything from hammer design to action geometry, rim construction to soundboard shaping. Gary and Kirk Burgett, the two brothers who own and manage Mason & Hamlin, have invested significant amounts of their personal fortune towards the improvement and continuing quest of perfection, the likes of which could only be compared to the Fazioli story.
Mason & Hamlin is perhaps best known for their ‘Tension Resonator’ design. In short, it is a series of chilled-steel high-tension rods which pull the rim of the piano together, towards its center. These rods meet at a turnbuckle which joins them together, and gives the characteristic looking ‘spider’ underneath each and every Mason grand. Following everyone’s general ‘shock’ after seeing it, most invariably ask ‘why’?
It is well known within piano circles that pianos slowly relax over time, which allows the soundboard to cave in against the pressure of the strings. This flattening is referred to as a “loss of crown”, and it dramatically impedes the power of the piano, it’s sustain, and its tuning stability. In fact, the piano’s frame only has to relax by 1mm (millimeter) to completely eliminate the crown. Mason’s tension resonator is specifically intended to prevent that relaxing, and maintain the crown of the piano for decades.
Carbon Fibre Action
Mason & Hamlin has designed and implemented quite possibly the most advanced piano action in the world. Paying appropriate homage to Kawai, Mason has advanced the use of Carbon technology in piano construction in a significant way. Not only have they replaced ALL wooden moving components in their action with Carbon composites, but they have also redesigned the geometry at the same time. Once designer Bruce Clarke was able to free himself of the traditional materials, a full re-examining of the action design could take place.
The result is a highly customizable action that is light, strong, and very durable. It has allowed for an extremely quick and responsive action that still feels just as substantial as the largest concert grands. The WNG action was rolled out to NAMM several years ago, and is now offered as a premium upgrade in many pianos around the world.
“The World’s Finest Rim”
Mason and Hamlin is also known for their huge, over-engineered rims. A major component to their characteristic sound has been these ultra-thick, overly dense maple rims. The rim construction is an interesting one. The two most common methods of manufacturing a rim are Inner Hardwood + Outer Softwood & Continuously Bent.
In order for Mason to accommodate the embedding of the steel rods that make up the tension resonator, a continuously bent rim cannot be used. To compensate for this, Mason has created the thickest, densest OUTER rim in the industry, which is what causes the over-sized dimensions for the rim as a whole.
Generally, Mason & Hamlin cures their rims in a special drying room for anywhere from 6 – 18 months, depending on the size and type of rim. It’s a fascinating site to see, and one which is open to any member of the public.
Mason & Hamlin has elevated the art of piano building to a new standard of precision. Very few woodworking companies in the world can claim a factory tolerance of 0.004″, as Mason can, and it’s baked right in to the company’s philosophy. Not every piano builder considers the precision of an instrument to be critical to the essence or ‘soul’ of its pianos, but at Mason, on every single floor of their 6-story factory building, you can observe the commitment to perfection. In fact, the Discovery Channel filmed an entire segment on Mason’s factory process for “How Its Made”. We’ve shown it below. Mason’s construction quality can be observed by the following:
The heaviest piano, inch-for-inch, in the world
The thickest rim of any piano in the world
One of the longest rim curing processes in the world
Use of the most modern laser-guided CNC machinery to cut all structure-critical pieces
Perfectly-matched pin-block to full-perimeter plate
Full-Perimeter Plate for maximum strength and tension